Study to determine possibility of COVID-19 spreading through sewers

KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) – The Malaysian Ministry of Environment will conduct a comprehensive study of the risk of COVID-19 to determine whether the virus can spread through the sewerage system.

Its minister Dato’ Tuan Ibrahim bin Tuan Man said in a statement yesterday that the ministry is expected to work on the study with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands next week.

He said the study needed to be done immediately as a recent scientific report by the National Institute of Public Health and Environment in the Netherlands showed that the genetic material of the COVID-19 virus was detected in the sewerage system in the Netherlands.

The report said this material came from the stool of patients infected with COVID-19.

“The ministry is aware of the scientific developments on the COVID-19 pandemic, so the ministry through the National Water Services Commission, National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia and the Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd will conduct a detailed study to find out if the genetic material of the COVID-19 virus can live and reproduce in the public sewerage system.

“This study will also determine if sewage samples in the sewerage system can be indicative of the presence of COVID-19 patients in a particular area,” he said.

He said the cooperation with UTM and TU Delft was to determine the health risk posed not only to workers in the sewerage and water supply industry, but also those involved in water supply management as well as consumers.

“The sewerage system is an essential service allowed to operate throughout the country during the implementation of the Movement Control Order,” he said, adding it was the ministry’s responsibility to minimise the health risk posed to staff in the industry.

Meanwhile, he said people should not worry about the safety and quality of drinking water, as according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the filtration or disinfection process carried out at water treatment plants was sufficient to kill the COVID-19 virus.